The Biden administration on Thursday took action effectively blocking a proposed copper mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota. The order signed by Interior Sec. Deb Haaland blocks mining and geothermal leasing in more than 225,000 acres of Superior National Forest for 20 years and is the second action in as many days by the administration to protect largely untouched wilderness areas. It also illustrates the need for minerals necessary for clean energy development as well as the perpetuation of extractivist and colonial legacies — a conflict even more pointed in what is now Arizona, where the San Carlos Apache Tribe is fighting a proposed Oak Flats copper mine in canyons the tribe regards as a corridor to God inhabited by holy spirits.
Wendsler Nosie, a former tribal chair, visited the sacred area with his grandfather as a child and has vowed to take his fight to defend the Apache’s right to practice their religion to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Would anyone destroy Mount Sinai to drill for oil?” he asked. “Both the president and the secretary have been clear that this administration supports responsible mining to develop critical minerals where those projects don’t pose unacceptable impacts to communities or the environment,” an unnamed Biden administration official told the Duluth News-Tribune. (Boundary Waters: AP, E&E News, Star Tribune $, MinnPost, Duluth News-Tribune, MPR, Minnesota Reformer, Washington Post $, HuffPost, CBS, Roll Call, New York Times $; Oak Flats: New York Times $)